Hailed as Britain’s answer to Hamilton, Six the Musical takes Tudor history and resets it to pop. Reclaiming their lives from the old classroom rhyme, Henry VIII’s six wives take to the stage in a pulsating piece of gig-theatre that takes all sorts of pops at their heir-hungry husband.
Between them, the six spouses become a contemporary girl band: imagine the Spice Girls in corsets and ruffs. On their very own Divorced Beheaded Live tour, they’re out to reset the historical record and, tired of being defined by their husband and their reproductive capacities, the six sing their hearts out (and their heads off) to tell their stories for themselves.
Six is another success story that’s grown out of its grassroots. Songwriting duo Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss wrote the show while still students at Cambridge and scored something of a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe. Picked up by producer Kenny Wax, the man who saw the potential of The Play That Goes Wrong, it was bolstered with a big enough budget to pull off production values to match the show’s score. The result looks a treat: Gabriella Slade’s futuristic corsets and neon ruffs won one of the show’s five Olivier nominations.
It sounds even better though and, above all, Six signals the arrival of significant talents in the form of Marlow and Moss. Their score is stuffed full of pop pastiche, with each of the six wives given their own musical stylings – one’s a born-again balladeer, another an R’n’B queen – as the compete to establish their credentials as the biggest victim of both history and the husband they shared. Their lyrics are possessed of a slick, nimble wit, with a devilish ability to turn a rhyme on a dime. (“I tried to elope but the Pope said nope.”) One song ‘Haus of Holbein’ reimagines renaissance portraiture as a kind of old-fangled dating app.
Two years after its success in Edinburgh, Six has slowly established itself as a cult hit and, with its Arts Theatre run confirmed until January 2020, it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s a chance to see the stars of tomorrow’s musical theatre. Could Marlow and Moss become its rightful heirs?